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WORK LIFE - REMEMBER THE WORKERS

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Travelling from Brighton to Hartlepool last Sunday morning was not the easiest of journeys. But I am glad I made th...
Travelling from Brighton to Hartlepool last Sunday morning was not the easiest of journeys. But I am glad I made the trip to commemorate International Workers Memorial Day with the local trades council.

Begun in 1985, and now recognised worldwide, Workers Memorial Day remembers all those killed, maimed or who have had their health destroyed at or by their work.

With our crowded schedules many of us seem to have lost touch with this very avoidable public health crisis. According to official Health & Safety Executive figures, last year the number of people in Britain killed through work increased for the first time for many years to 291. In addition 147 members of the public were killed through work-related activities. Include those killed while driving for their work and the figure soars to 1,500. Add on the estimated 10,000 plus killed by occupational diseases and the annual death toll reaches at least 11,500. This means that more than one person an hour dies in Britain as a result of their work.

Then there is the misery and damage caused by serious accidents and work related ill-health. In Britain over 25 million working days are lost every year. Over 25,000 people are forced to give up work.

Worldwide, the scale of the problem is breathtaking. According to the International Labour Organisation 1.3 million people die each year due to poor working conditions - 3,300 a day.

The majority of these deaths and injuries are avoidable. According to the executive, most are due to management failures

This year's theme for the day was occupational health. Occupational health schemes might lack the immediacy of safety issues, but they can have a major effect in preventing ill health through work.

We are seeing record levels of investment in health care. Yet good quality occupational health schemes, like most preventative health care, suffers from serious under investment.

Local government as a major employer and as a health and safety regulator has an important role in making work and workplaces safe. Let's hope International Workers Memorial Day leads to more union branches and local councils working in partnership to do just that.

Malcolm Wing

National secretary, Unison

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